How Often You Should Wash Your Boat

Q: How often should my boat get washed?

A: As the owner of a boat detailing company, I would like to say that you should have us wash it every three days! That may help me pay for my next trip to Europe, but it doesn’t help answer this reader’s question and it’s completely unrealistic. The truth is that it’s different for every boat and it depends on several factors – where it’s moored (covered or open slip), how often it’s used, where it’s used (salt or lake water) and when it was last waxed.

If those are the factors, then X = a boat that doesn’t require strong cleaners or soaps to get clean. X does not equal “a clean boat” because you can get a clean boat by washing it with acetone or bleach (not that anyone ever would – just making a point), but you don’t ever want your boat to get so dirty that it can’t easily be cleaned with mild cleaners. That’s why X = “a boat that doesn’t require strong cleaners or soaps to get clean”.

I make this point because a lot of marinas these days are changing their policies and not allowing certain types of cleaning products or boat soaps to be used at their marina anymore. As boat detailers, we run into this all the time and have had to change the products we use to comply with these new rules. So if this is the way things are heading, then best to make the change now by making sure your boat never gets so dirty that it needs cleaners your marina won’t approve to remove stains or mildew.

I’ll get off my phosphate-free soap box now and finally answer the question. You’d think that if your boat is in a covered slip, you don’t need to wash it as often because it’s not getting rained on. With a covered slip, you’re basically swapping water streaks for spider droppings and you definitely want to wash those off your boat quickly as they can stain permanently if left on the gel coat long enough and especially if your boat hasn’t been waxed in a while. If you have spider droppings and don’t have time to wash your boat, at least go around with cleaner wax and wipe them off. If your boat is in a covered slip and you’re quick to remove spider droppings, you can get away with washing your boat every eight weeks or so before it becomes a bigger job than just a basic wash.

If your boat lives outside (not in a covered slip), you can get away with washing it every three to four weeks as long as it has a good coat of wax on it so the water streaks and bird droppings don’t start to set in. However, each time you take your boat out in salt water, wash it as soon as you get back to the dock to remove all salt spray. A quick hose down isn’t good enough because that salt spray can be quite sticky and it will eventually etch your windows with water spots that never come off. If you only have time for a quick hose down after a salty trip, at least spend a few extra minutes washing the windows and wiping them dry. This will pay off greatly in the future.

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